Council to consider audit of Police Department's hiring practices – Palo Alto Online

News
by / Palo Alto Weekly
Uploaded: Wed, Mar 9, 2022, 1:05 pm 0
Time to read: about 4 minutes
On March 14, 2022, the Palo Alto City Council will consider approving a $25,000 contract with OIR Group to evaluate the Police Department’s recruiting and hiring standards. Embarcadero Media file photo.
With Palo Alto looking to add police officers and replace its police chief, the city’s independent police auditor is preparing to scrutinize the department’s hiring and recruiting practices.
The City Council will consider on Monday approving a $25,000 contract with OIR Group to evaluate how the Palo Alto Police Department’s recruiting and hiring standards “reflect contemporary thinking about candidate eligibility, suitability and potential,” according to a new report from City Manager Ed Shikada. Police auditors are also scheduled to give an update to the council about recent use-of-force incidents and complaints filed against police officers.
If approved, the auditing firm’s review will come a time of transition for the department, which lost about 30 budgeted positions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw its staffing levels drop from 155 positions to 125, according to the city budget. While the budget currently includes 79 sworn officer positions, Chief Robert Jonsen said last month that because of injuries and attrition, the city only has 59 sworn officers available.
The council signaled its intention to bolster police staffing levels when it adopted “Community Health and Safety” as one of its priorities last month, a category that includes responding to a recent uptick in burglaries and other crimes throughout the city. Council members also authorized Jonsen on Feb. 7 to recruit new five officers and to hire a new deputy director for the Technical Services Division, a move that will free up another officer for patrol duties.
The city is also preparing to recruit a new police chief, with Jonsen announcing his plans to retire this summer and launching a campaign to replace Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. City Manager Ed Shikada told this news organization that while Jonsen’s retirement is scheduled for July, he will be off-duty starting in mid-June. On Thursday night, the Human Relations Commission will hold the first in a series of “listening sessions” to solicit community feedback on a new chief. The second and third sessions will be held on March 19 and 31.
Help sustain the local news you depend on.
Your contribution matters. Become a member today.
The leadership change will come at a time when the Police Department has been facing heavy scrutiny and lawsuits stemming from numerous violent arrests. One retired officer, Wayne Benitez, is currently facing misdemeanor charges for slamming the head of a resident Gustavo Alvarez on a car windshield during an arrest at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in 2018, an incident that led to a $572,500 settlement. Another officer, Thomas DeStefano, left the department last September after being named in numerous lawsuits, the most recent one involving an arrest in front of Happy Donuts in 2019 that left the victim, Julio Arevalo, with a shattered orbital bone. The city also approved a $135,000 settlement in January with Joel Alejo, a Mountain View resident who was attacked by a Palo Alto police dog while he was sleeping in a shed during a police manhunt for a kidnapping suspect.
The department also saw tension within its ranks, with a group of six officers suing the city last year over a Black Lives Matter mural that the City Council commissioned in 2020 as part of its effort to promote racial equity and diversity in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer. The mural included an image of Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army who became a fugitive after she was convicted of shooting a state trooper in 1973. Last week, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled against the officers after rejecting their assertion that the city’s failure to immediately remove the mural constituted an “averse action” that discriminates against officers, who are not considered a “protective class.” One of the six officers involved in the suit, Christopher Moore, retired last August and issued a public letter that sharply criticized Jonsen and other department leaders.
The proposed review of department hiring and recruiting practices would signify yet another expansion in OIR Group’s oversight role in Palo Alto. Last year, the council empowered the auditor to review more types of use-of-force incidents, including ones in which an officer uses a baton, a chemical agent, a less-lethal projectile or a canine, as well as internal conflicts within the department that involve discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
OIR Group released its first report under the expanded scope last month. It also issued last week a sheet summarizing the outcomes of 10 cases that it had reviewed. In seven of these, the auditor concluded either that the complaints were unfounded or that no misconduct was identified. One of these cases involved an officer who wasn’t wearing a mask coughed next to a man and made a glib reference to COVID-19; he received verbal counseling but was not cited for violating any department policies.
In three other cases, OIR Group identified flaws in the conduct of department employees. The auditor concluded that a police dispatcher deviated from protocol during the department’s delayed response to a medical emergency in Barron Park in 2020. And in the Alejo incident, the auditor found that the officer’s failure to issue a warning or identify himself as an officer was “problematic” but did not rise to the level of a policy violation.
Stay informed
Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.
Stay informed
Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.
The only incident in which a complaint against an officer was sustained was an internal complaint that involved a patrol officer whose girlfriend joined him on a ride-along and used the computer terminal in the police car to query her own name. In reviewing the case, department supervisors also heard a conversation in which the officer alluded to use of illegal drugs at a recent party.
The officer was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and later disciplined for the inappropriate database entry, according to OIR. The audit also noted that the department could not make the determination that the officer used illegal drugs, though it concluded that his attendance at the party and “tacit endorsement” of other people’s illegal activities constituted a policy violation.
Most Viewed Stories
Accountant for Palo Alto tech firm killed in Ukraine with her two children
Palo Alto banks on private donors for new public gym
County sanctions Palo Alto smoke shop for violating vaping ban
Aged electric grid threatens Palo Alto’s climate change goals
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith issues defiant response to corruption accusation
Most Viewed Stories
Accountant for Palo Alto tech firm killed in Ukraine with her two children
Palo Alto banks on private donors for new public gym
Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

by / Palo Alto Weekly
Uploaded: Wed, Mar 9, 2022, 1:05 pm

With Palo Alto looking to add police officers and replace its police chief, the city’s independent police auditor is preparing to scrutinize the department’s hiring and recruiting practices.

The City Council will consider on Monday approving a $25,000 contract with OIR Group to evaluate how the Palo Alto Police Department’s recruiting and hiring standards “reflect contemporary thinking about candidate eligibility, suitability and potential,” according to a new report from City Manager Ed Shikada. Police auditors are also scheduled to give an update to the council about recent use-of-force incidents and complaints filed against police officers.

If approved, the auditing firm’s review will come a time of transition for the department, which lost about 30 budgeted positions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw its staffing levels drop from 155 positions to 125, according to the city budget. While the budget currently includes 79 sworn officer positions, Chief Robert Jonsen said last month that because of injuries and attrition, the city only has 59 sworn officers available.

The council signaled its intention to bolster police staffing levels when it adopted “Community Health and Safety” as one of its priorities last month, a category that includes responding to a recent uptick in burglaries and other crimes throughout the city. Council members also authorized Jonsen on Feb. 7 to recruit new five officers and to hire a new deputy director for the Technical Services Division, a move that will free up another officer for patrol duties.

The city is also preparing to recruit a new police chief, with Jonsen announcing his plans to retire this summer and launching a campaign to replace Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. City Manager Ed Shikada told this news organization that while Jonsen’s retirement is scheduled for July, he will be off-duty starting in mid-June. On Thursday night, the Human Relations Commission will hold the first in a series of “listening sessions” to solicit community feedback on a new chief. The second and third sessions will be held on March 19 and 31.

The leadership change will come at a time when the Police Department has been facing heavy scrutiny and lawsuits stemming from numerous violent arrests. One retired officer, Wayne Benitez, is currently facing misdemeanor charges for slamming the head of a resident Gustavo Alvarez on a car windshield during an arrest at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in 2018, an incident that led to a $572,500 settlement. Another officer, Thomas DeStefano, left the department last September after being named in numerous lawsuits, the most recent one involving an arrest in front of Happy Donuts in 2019 that left the victim, Julio Arevalo, with a shattered orbital bone. The city also approved a $135,000 settlement in January with Joel Alejo, a Mountain View resident who was attacked by a Palo Alto police dog while he was sleeping in a shed during a police manhunt for a kidnapping suspect.

The department also saw tension within its ranks, with a group of six officers suing the city last year over a Black Lives Matter mural that the City Council commissioned in 2020 as part of its effort to promote racial equity and diversity in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer. The mural included an image of Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army who became a fugitive after she was convicted of shooting a state trooper in 1973. Last week, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled against the officers after rejecting their assertion that the city’s failure to immediately remove the mural constituted an “averse action” that discriminates against officers, who are not considered a “protective class.” One of the six officers involved in the suit, Christopher Moore, retired last August and issued a public letter that sharply criticized Jonsen and other department leaders.

The proposed review of department hiring and recruiting practices would signify yet another expansion in OIR Group’s oversight role in Palo Alto. Last year, the council empowered the auditor to review more types of use-of-force incidents, including ones in which an officer uses a baton, a chemical agent, a less-lethal projectile or a canine, as well as internal conflicts within the department that involve discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

OIR Group released its first report under the expanded scope last month. It also issued last week a sheet summarizing the outcomes of 10 cases that it had reviewed. In seven of these, the auditor concluded either that the complaints were unfounded or that no misconduct was identified. One of these cases involved an officer who wasn’t wearing a mask coughed next to a man and made a glib reference to COVID-19; he received verbal counseling but was not cited for violating any department policies.

In three other cases, OIR Group identified flaws in the conduct of department employees. The auditor concluded that a police dispatcher deviated from protocol during the department’s delayed response to a medical emergency in Barron Park in 2020. And in the Alejo incident, the auditor found that the officer’s failure to issue a warning or identify himself as an officer was “problematic” but did not rise to the level of a policy violation.

The only incident in which a complaint against an officer was sustained was an internal complaint that involved a patrol officer whose girlfriend joined him on a ride-along and used the computer terminal in the police car to query her own name. In reviewing the case, department supervisors also heard a conversation in which the officer alluded to use of illegal drugs at a recent party.

The officer was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and later disciplined for the inappropriate database entry, according to OIR. The audit also noted that the department could not make the determination that the officer used illegal drugs, though it concluded that his attendance at the party and “tacit endorsement” of other people’s illegal activities constituted a policy violation.

With Palo Alto looking to add police officers and replace its police chief, the city’s independent police auditor is preparing to scrutinize the department’s hiring and recruiting practices.
The City Council will consider on Monday approving a $25,000 contract with OIR Group to evaluate how the Palo Alto Police Department’s recruiting and hiring standards “reflect contemporary thinking about candidate eligibility, suitability and potential,” according to a new report from City Manager Ed Shikada. Police auditors are also scheduled to give an update to the council about recent use-of-force incidents and complaints filed against police officers.
If approved, the auditing firm’s review will come a time of transition for the department, which lost about 30 budgeted positions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw its staffing levels drop from 155 positions to 125, according to the city budget. While the budget currently includes 79 sworn officer positions, Chief Robert Jonsen said last month that because of injuries and attrition, the city only has 59 sworn officers available.
The council signaled its intention to bolster police staffing levels when it adopted “Community Health and Safety” as one of its priorities last month, a category that includes responding to a recent uptick in burglaries and other crimes throughout the city. Council members also authorized Jonsen on Feb. 7 to recruit new five officers and to hire a new deputy director for the Technical Services Division, a move that will free up another officer for patrol duties.
The city is also preparing to recruit a new police chief, with Jonsen announcing his plans to retire this summer and launching a campaign to replace Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. City Manager Ed Shikada told this news organization that while Jonsen’s retirement is scheduled for July, he will be off-duty starting in mid-June. On Thursday night, the Human Relations Commission will hold the first in a series of “listening sessions” to solicit community feedback on a new chief. The second and third sessions will be held on March 19 and 31.
The leadership change will come at a time when the Police Department has been facing heavy scrutiny and lawsuits stemming from numerous violent arrests. One retired officer, Wayne Benitez, is currently facing misdemeanor charges for slamming the head of a resident Gustavo Alvarez on a car windshield during an arrest at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in 2018, an incident that led to a $572,500 settlement. Another officer, Thomas DeStefano, left the department last September after being named in numerous lawsuits, the most recent one involving an arrest in front of Happy Donuts in 2019 that left the victim, Julio Arevalo, with a shattered orbital bone. The city also approved a $135,000 settlement in January with Joel Alejo, a Mountain View resident who was attacked by a Palo Alto police dog while he was sleeping in a shed during a police manhunt for a kidnapping suspect.
The department also saw tension within its ranks, with a group of six officers suing the city last year over a Black Lives Matter mural that the City Council commissioned in 2020 as part of its effort to promote racial equity and diversity in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer. The mural included an image of Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army who became a fugitive after she was convicted of shooting a state trooper in 1973. Last week, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled against the officers after rejecting their assertion that the city’s failure to immediately remove the mural constituted an “averse action” that discriminates against officers, who are not considered a “protective class.” One of the six officers involved in the suit, Christopher Moore, retired last August and issued a public letter that sharply criticized Jonsen and other department leaders.
The proposed review of department hiring and recruiting practices would signify yet another expansion in OIR Group’s oversight role in Palo Alto. Last year, the council empowered the auditor to review more types of use-of-force incidents, including ones in which an officer uses a baton, a chemical agent, a less-lethal projectile or a canine, as well as internal conflicts within the department that involve discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
OIR Group released its first report under the expanded scope last month. It also issued last week a sheet summarizing the outcomes of 10 cases that it had reviewed. In seven of these, the auditor concluded either that the complaints were unfounded or that no misconduct was identified. One of these cases involved an officer who wasn’t wearing a mask coughed next to a man and made a glib reference to COVID-19; he received verbal counseling but was not cited for violating any department policies.
In three other cases, OIR Group identified flaws in the conduct of department employees. The auditor concluded that a police dispatcher deviated from protocol during the department’s delayed response to a medical emergency in Barron Park in 2020. And in the Alejo incident, the auditor found that the officer’s failure to issue a warning or identify himself as an officer was “problematic” but did not rise to the level of a policy violation.
The only incident in which a complaint against an officer was sustained was an internal complaint that involved a patrol officer whose girlfriend joined him on a ride-along and used the computer terminal in the police car to query her own name. In reviewing the case, department supervisors also heard a conversation in which the officer alluded to use of illegal drugs at a recent party.
The officer was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and later disciplined for the inappropriate database entry, according to OIR. The audit also noted that the department could not make the determination that the officer used illegal drugs, though it concluded that his attendance at the party and “tacit endorsement” of other people’s illegal activities constituted a policy violation.
There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.
In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.
Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don’t be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.
See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.
Home
News
TownSquare
Blogs
A&E
Community Calendar
Sports
Home & Real Estate
Visitor Info
Send News Tips
Subscribe
Print Edition/Archives
Express / Weekend Express
Promotions
Special Pubs
Obituaries
Circulation & Delivery
About Us
Contact Us
Advertising Info
Terms of Use
Privacy Policy
 
Mountain View Voice
The Almanac
TheSixFifty.com
© 2022 Palo Alto Online
All rights reserved.
 
Embarcadero Media
 
PR MediaRelease
Sponsored content
Mobile site
© 2022 Palo Alto Online. All rights reserved.

source

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.